[Dixielandjazz] Growing the Jazz Audience Can't be Done--Thom Botsford responds

Norman Vickers nvickers1 at cox.net
Tue May 29 12:05:10 PDT 2012

To:  DJML;  Musicians & Jazzfans list

From: Norman Vickers, Jazz Society of Pensacola


Saxophonist and English Dept. Chair, Pensacola State College, Thom Botsford writes—


Thanks Thom for this thoughtful discussion….


RE: Growing the Jazz Audience Can't be Done




Let’s face it. Jazz has been an elite music since Charlie Parker, with just an occasional popular hit here and there (“Take Five,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” “This Masquerade,”

“Cantaloop,” etc.)


But as the author of the original article notes, it remains a musical movement of huge significance because it continues to influence all kinds of popular music. 


Indeed, along with its overlapping incestuous cousin the blues, jazz is the root of almost all 20th century American pop music—including the sappy and clichéd music we hear on “American Idol” and such.


We just can’t expect a mass audience to enjoy vintage Bird, Monk, Trane—or contemporary Wynton, The Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, etc.


Jazz, in so many words, is music for musicians and musicians at heart. It’s the good stuff—the expensive, smoky single-malt Scotch, let’s say—a drink wasted on the folks who want white Zin and cheap beer. 


Occasionally we will see an outstanding popular band that makes use of jazz at its best—and, indeed, is a new kind of jazz. The best example I know is Steely Dan (beginning in the 1970s and still recording outstanding music)—which in addition to jazz elements, uses amazing lyrics of literary quality, funky R&B, and interesting chord changes to capture a wide audience of folks in-the-know.


The first record by Chicago Transit Authority in 1969 (the one with the masterpiece “Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?”)is another example of a new kind of popular jazz. Sadly it didn’t last.


Don’t despair. There will be jazz as long as there’s rhythm, blues, improvisation, and imagination—and musicians who come home from the gig hoping never to play “Margaritaville” again.






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